Former employees of the Law Offices of David J. Stern have filed a class-action against Stern and his firm, claiming they were laid off in violation of federal law when Stern’s firm collapsed in November 2010.
Lawyers in that suit have taken the deposition of Cheryl Samons, and her testimony is fascinating for anyone who wants to know how Stern built his empire on whose toes he stepped on to get there.
One fascinating aspect is the promises that Stern made to Samons—and how, when he took the company public, he cut her out of the talks completely:
Q: Taking the company public, you said it was "our dream," was that ever your dream?
A: No, I didn't want to be part of a publicly traded company, but David kept saying that—because I didn't know anything about publicly-traded companies. And I still don't know anything about publicly-traded companies. But you know, because it was—it was our little thing that we built, you know. It was supposed to be small.
Q: Do you think David lied to you?
A: Yeah. I think he lied to me.
(p. 93, ll. 5–15)
Although it’s hard to muster up a lot of sympathy for a woman who spent years effectively forging documents to throw people out of their homes, it’s clear that Stern is the real villain and she was just the minion. Samons testified that she worked 16–17 hour days, six to seven days a week, to keep the law firm functioning, while Stern himself stopped doing legal work altogether, vanished from the office, and spent his time schmoozing clients.
Also, Samons gives a glimpse of how the foreclosure machine—not just Stern’s, but everyone’s—began to break under the strain in just the last few years, especially as LPS came on the scene:
Q: And when did that change, approximately?
A: It began to change, I don't know, somewhere between 2005 and 2006 maybe. I don't remember when we became Freddie Mac designated counsel, but that was the first change. And then the invention of LPS also changed time frames.
Q: What is LPS?
A: Lender Processing Service.
Q: Okay. And how were time frames changed?
A: They were shortened.… LPS simply tiered you with other attorneys and said "These are the firms that are doing it the fastest, everybody has to do it this way." …and at some point, Fannie reduced theirs [timeline] to 150 [days], I believe.
(p. 60, l. 19—p. 61, ll. 1–3, ll. 18-20, p. 62, ll. 5–6)
Q: What is that [LPS]?
A: It's a— it's an entity that offers services—services to banks and other lenders to help them streamline their processes.
Q: When was it instituted into your world?
A: I want to say sometime between 2005 and 2006, somewhere in there. I'm not a hundred percent positive.
Q: What was it's purpose?
A: To make my life miserable.
Indeed, much like the misery of families thrown onto the streets, victims of mass-produced evidence fabrication, all done in the name of efficiency.
It’s hard not to feel a little Schadenfreude.
UPDATE: Kim Miller at the Palm Beach Post has picked up the story.